Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Worst Advice I Was Ever Given

I was 23 when I first started teaching. (That in itself is crazy to think about.) I was fresh out of college when I got my first teaching job. I finished college in December and by the end of January I was hired to finish out the school year for a teacher on maternity leave. In college, my advisers in the teaching program all said the same thing: learn from the teachers around you, ask for help, and listen to their advice. And be nice to the secretaries. That was all good advice.

My first job was a 5th-8th grade PE teacher. Most PE jobs have a female teacher (me) and a male teacher for locker room supervision duties. While I was licensed to teach PE, and I had done some student teaching in PE, I didn't feel 100% comfortable with teaching PE. I turned to the male PE teacher (Eric) for guidance and advice, just like my college professors had told us to.

Eric was a great teacher. The kids loved him, he had great management, and had inventive games to teach the sport skills we were working on. I learned a lot from him about teaching PE (and honestly, teaching in general.) But Eric also gave me the worst advice I was ever given. One day we were talking after school about whatever and he told me this: "don't be friends with the people you work with."
Don't be friends with people you work with.
I think the idea behind this piece of advice is have a life outside of school. That I 100% agree with, but really, don't be friends with the people you work with? At the end of that school year, I left that school and ended up taking another middle school PE job in a different district. I remembered that advice, and tried to implement it. I was nice with my other staff members, and again I learned a lot from my fellow PE teacher, but I wasn't friends with them. That was a miserable school year. I was extremely unhappy and I almost left the profession entirely. At the end of the year, I left that district and was hired into my current job.

I started out my first year with the same approach. One day in November I was asked to go out after work for happy hour. I honestly didn't have a reason not to go, so I said okay. And it was fun. :) I decided Eric's advice was full of crap, and started doing more social things with the staff members. Since then I have been to numerous happy hours, bowling, golfing, been to tie-dye parties, and more. This school year I am in a monthly Bunco group. When my mom died at the beginning of the school year, it was those same people that covered my classes, came up with lessons and made it so I didn't have to worry about what was going on. Several also called/texted to see how I was doing. A woman I had known for 3 weeks left the most thoughtful card in my box when I came back.

There is so much that I love about my job. I love my students, I love the subject I teach, and I really do love (most of) the staff I work with. If I were to give advice today to a new staff member I would echo a lot of what I learned in college: learn from the people around you and ask for help. I would add, get to know your coworkers outside of school. And be nice to the secretaries.

Have you ever gotten really bad advice?


Erika said...

That IS terrible advice!! Work is so much happier when you have people you know and like to look forward to seeing! Glad you decided to toss his advice out the window.

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

Some of the people I've met while working are some of my friends for life. Terrible advice!

The best advice I've ever gotten in regards to work (and I also give it now): Life is pizza - work is only one slice of the pie. Don't let the other slices get cold.

Jen said...

Wow that is definitely not good advice. I actually was told that too before I started my last job. I still talk to all of my coworkers and my old boss. Some of the greatest people I have ever met.

Becky Dougherty said...

I think you're right. Not being friends with the people you work with doesn't make you very happy. When I first started at my job, I quickly befriended a fellow new-hire. As much as I love her (she was my maid of honor and I, her matron on honor), we should have reached out more. It's not that we weren't friendly with others, but I hated when we couldn't eat lunch together because I'd have to eat by myself. When she got another job, I had to reach out. Now I love most of my coworkers!

Rachel said...

I think it might have been a little better advice had it been more like "Don't feel like you have to be friends with the people you work with." When I started at my school--I was really hoping to make a lot of close friends, and I was at first sad that everyone constantly excluded me and hung out together...although, truth be told, when I was honest with myself, I knew that my classmates weren't really kindred spirits...and I didn't actually want to "hang out" with them at parties and watch minors do illegal things, so I've accepted that, currently, I don't have friends at the place I spend 40 hours a week. It probably would be more fun if I did, but it not the end of the world because I don't.

Katie said...

definitely good to have life outside of school but really good to have friends at work! they definitely make your job more enjoyable and easier!!!

Jenny said...

I was told by my student teaching supervisor that I should not be friends with the people I work with, not eat in the staff lounge, and just keep my head down and do my job. This was her advice for once I'm hired, not just student teaching. This was after another student teacher was spoken to about her behavior and decided that I had been talking smack about her when I hadn't. Schools are awesome! There's definitely not any gossip or passive aggressive behavior there! :) I'm still going to be friends with my coworkers, just not the crazies.